Immigration & Refugees — Small Group Discussion Questions

The following is a list of discussion questions composed for a CrossWay Community Church small group, Christ & Culture, for use throughout December 2018 and January 2019.


  • Understanding ourselves:
    • What influences are at play in your own life shaping the way you react to and approach this topic (e.g., experiences, sources of news, upbringing, neighborhood, relationships, political views, etc.)?
    • What concerns do you have / what things are important to you in this controversy and subject matter?
    • What are our biases?
  • Understanding our Christian starting point:
    • What values, priorities, and principles should we, as Christians, be applying to this situation / question?
    • What Bible passages speak to this issue?
    • Are there any seeming tensions? If so, how do we resolve or reconcile them?
  • Understanding the role of government:
    • From a Christian perspective, what is the government’s obligation to immigrants and/or refugees.
    • As Christians, what should we hope or strive to see realized in our government when it comes to policy on immigration or refugees?
  • Evaluating society’s approaches:
    • What are the common approaches and reactions to immigration, immigrants, and refugees we find in our society? What messages are we hearing?
      • On the Right:
        • “A government needs law or order” (e.g., controlled borders). And with that, “If you come here illegally, you need to face the consequences” (e.g., deportation or sanctions of some kind).
        • “Immigrants need to assimilate to our culture and learn our language.” Or, resistance to immigration/immigrants on the grounds that, “We need to preserve our culture.”
        • “We need to spend our resources taking care of our own before we take care of others.”
        • “We might let in terrorists” (in the case of refugees).
        • “They are violent gang members and drug pushers” (in the case of immigrants).
        • “We’re not saying you can’t come here. We’re just saying, ‘Do so legally like other people.’ Follow the process that’s in place. When you come here illegally, you undermine those those who seek to come here legally.”
        • “They’re taking our jobs” (referring to immigrants, legal or illegal).
      • On the Left:
        • “Borders are an arbitrary or outdated concept. We don’t need them. It’s a human rights issue — people should be free to migrate and move as they please.”
        • “These folks are simply seeking a better life here.”
        • “It’s okay to break the laws” (e.g., sanctuary cities) “if those laws are unjust.”
        • “It’s not realistic to deport all these people who are here illegally.”
        • “This is the only life and country they’ve ever known” (speaking of illegals who have been here for quite some time, or who have grown up here). “They are American for all intents and purposes, even if they are undocumented.”
        • “You can’t punish children for the crimes of their parents” (speaking about so-called DACA individuals).
        • “You’re tearing families apart” (e.g., by deporting parents who are illegal, but who would leave behind legal children, or by not allowing individuals into the country who have family members here).
    • Why do you think folks think these ways? What concerns are at play in these sentiments? Can you see how these expression could be (or could seem to be) reasonable, or come from a place of genuine good-interest and sincerity (even if misguided or erroneous)?
    • How might we analyze, assess, or critique these arguments, beliefs, reactions, dispositions, etc. from a Christian perspective?
  • Considering policy questions:
    • How can we justly, fairly, and compassionately treat migrants seeking to enter our country?
    • How should we assess policies that demonstrate partiality towards would-be immigrants based on where they are from? Is this justifiable?
    • Should we build a border wall, as the Trump administration is seeking?
    • What do we make of the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border? What is a Christian response to this policy?
    • What policy changes could be made to improve the immigration system in our country?
  • Considering our responsibility:
    • What is the church’s responsibility in addressing or engaging these matters?
    • The individual christian’s responsibility?
  • On the ground:
    • What are some practical things we can do to make a difference here?
    • What are some ways we can helpfully speak to others (Christians or non-Christians) about these matters?

Misplaced Hope & the 2018 Midterms

If you are overly excited about the results of the midterm elections, your hope and confidence are misplaced. And equally so, if you’re despairing or doomsday-like about the midterm elections, this also is symptomatic of a misplaced hope.

Christian, engage in politics. Exercise your Christian social responsibility. But do not place your hope in the political arena.

Christ is king. He was king before this. He’s still king today. And he won’t stop being king at any time in the future. God’s kingdom purposes are sure and immutable. Our politics neither make him king, nor hinder his kingship.

Christ’s kingdom is everlasting and without end. It is the only kingdom that will ultimately last; and it will eventually eclipse all worldly kingdoms. These midterms are a mere a blip, a speck, on the timeline of God’s eternal purposes.

Engage. Don’t make too little of politics and dismiss it altogether. But don’t make too much of politics either — leading towards either despair or misplaced confidence.

A Mother’s Day Reflection & Prayer

Mother'sDay


A Mother’s Day Reflection & Prayer
CrossWay Community Church
May 13th, 2018


Mediation:

Today is Mother’s Day. It’s a day we’ve dedicated to acknowledging, thanking, and celebrating mothers.

And as Christians, we have all the more reason to be appreciative.

We understand that God himself is the author motherhood. In the beginning, when God said, “Let us make humankind in our own image,” he followed it up with, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And in those words he created motherhood. Having moms was his idea.

And don’t miss this. The Bible calls this a blessing. Right before God says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” notice how he introduces this statement. What does the passage say? “And God blessedthem, and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.” The command to be fruitful and multiply, and with it the institution of motherhood, is described as a blessing by God.

As James tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from our Father above.” And so when we give thanks for moms, we express thanks first and foremost to God himself. Motherhood was his idea. It’s a blessing from God.

And this is something many of us know from our own experience. Many of us have personally experienced the blessings of motherhood – whether that’s through your own mom, or maybe you’ve had the privilege of being a mom yourself. –Or we might add here, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.

Moms are an expression of God’s grace towards humanity – for the rearing of children, for the good of the family, and for the betterment of society.

At the same time, we’d amiss if we failed to acknowledge the fact that for many Mother’s Day is a difficult day.

Some today are reminded of mothers that have since passed away. The grief is still real.

Some may struggle with bitterness, anger, or guilt. Maybe their relationship with their mom was less than what God intended it to be.

Others still are haunted by the pain of infertility, miscarriage, or past abortion; or we think of those here who are single and would desire to be married and become mothers. For many in our midst, Mother’s Day may feel like little more than a cruel reminder of loss and heartache. And far too often they suffer in silence. Because these situations are often private, their pain is often overlooked and forgotten.

The list goes on: Sometimes motherhood begins with unplanned or unexpected pregnancies – at times with fear, shame, or uncertainty. We can think of single mothers who may be raising children on their own. –Grandmothers who, for a variety of reasons, may be raising their children’s children. –Mothers of children with disabilities, and any unique challenges or demands those circumstance may bring.

There are undoubtedly a variety of stories represented in this room. And all of our experiences are unique, with differing mixes of joy and difficulty.

And so we experience Mother’s Day with a certain level of ambivalence. As Paul says, we are a body. We consider ourselves, not as separate, isolated individuals, but as those connected to one another. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt with them.

And so Mother’s Day is a day in which we practice Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We hold up – on the one hand – the joys and blessing of motherhood. We thank God for our mothers, and show appreciation to our moms. Yet at the same time we show sympathy, care, and sensitivity to those for whom today is difficult.

As we do so, let’s pray towards that end:

Prayer:

God, on a day like today, we are simultaneously aware of the great gift you have given us in motherhood, and yet deeply grieved by the effects of sin upon it. We can hold these two together because we know that you have given us motherhood as something good; and yet things are not always the way you designed them to be. And so we are joyous and thankful; and yet at the same time we embrace those who mourn.

God, we thank you for motherhood. We give you thanks for mothers and grandmothers who raised us well. We give you thanks for moms who were with us during hard times, for moms who prayed for us when we were wayward, and for moms who served us in ways that often went unnoticed.

For those here who themselves have had the privilege of being mom and grandmoms, we thank you for that gift. We thank you for the joy of being able to welcome a newborn baby into the world – of seeing their first steps, and hearing their first words. We thank you for the children you have put into their stewardship, and the privilege it is to raise them to follow you.

We also recognize those in our community here who experience pain and a sense of loss today. We think of those mothers or grandmothers whose circumstances may be difficult or trying. We think specifically of those who have lost mothers, for whom today may feel like an anniversary of their grief. We think of those who long to be mothers, but mourn the absence of new life within them; those who’ve conceived, but suffered loss through miscarriage or abortion; those who have given birth, but endured the tragedy of having to bury their own child.

With them we cry, O Lord, how long must death get its way at the outset of life?

But you, O God, have answered our cry. You have shown concern for our plight by sending your very Son. He himself bore our sorrows and is deeply acquainted with our grief. Because of his resurrection, death no longer has any sting. And so, when we grieve, we now grieve as those with hope. We await a new heavens and a new earth in which all pain and suffering will be undone.

We thank you for this hope in the name Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

We’re Doing Sex Wrong: What Weinstein, #MeToo, & This Wake of Sexual Assault Scandals Reveals

Top (from left): Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Roy Moore. Bottom: John Besh, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Piven, and Richard Dreyfuss. (AP images)

The past month or so, we’ve seen incident after incident after incident of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct (Weinstein, Franken, Moore, etc.). We’ve witnessed (or participated in) the #MeToo trend, bringing awareness to and identifying what is apparently a pervasive problem in our society. Yet, as these scandals have unfolded, many have responded with shock and surprise. “I can’t believe that [so and so] did that…”

Christians believe in the doctrine of sin — that humanity is broken and rebellious against God, rejecting his good purposes. And so, on the one hand, Christians are never totally surprised when humanity acts heinously. We have theological categories for this.

On the other hand, there’s a certain level of shock that should always be present — a shock that matches the degree of sin’s audacity. Even as we understand humanity’s disposition to sin and propensity to commit great acts of evil, this reality doesn’t make sin any less appalling. Furthermore, due to God’s (common) restraining grace on humanity, we expect people to treat others with a certain base-level of dignity, even in their sinfulness.

But, at this point in the cultural story, if you’re still surprised when the latest sexual assault scandal emerges, you shouldn’t be.

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NFL Thanksgiving as a Cultural Liturgy of “God & Country,” Nationalist Militarism (James K.A. Smith)

As always, James K.A. Smith is equally perceptive of cultural habits as he is insightful in his analysis of them.

In today’s The NFL’s Thanksgiving games are a spectacular display of America’s ‘God and country’ obsession, published over at the The Washington Post, Smith plays on a common thesis in his writings:

Whereas many see our culture’s habits, traditions, and institutions as mundane, non-religious affairs, James sees much more at stake. They are competing rituals, or “religious” liturgies competing for our worship and shaping our loves.

Christian worship is formative — forming us into a people who love Christ and his kingdom. Our competing cultural “liturgies” (e.g., here: a traditional NFL Thanksgiving; or in other places in Smith’s writing: e.g., the mall as a house of worship for consumerism — quite relevant for tomorrow’s Black Friday) have a deformative power, pulling on our affections and, in the process, misplacing them (idolatry).


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